Tag Archives: Germany

Interview: Hilko Drude

Also available in German.

Could you quickly introduce yourself, for the people out there that may not know you already?

Hello, I am Hilko.

I’m a boardgamer since the early days of my childhood. After a few halfhearted attempts, I began developing games in a more serious fashion in 2007. This has so far led to 8 publications, from small-scale series to a few higher volume editions. I’ve been blogging about games for two years now as well.

My full-time job is teaching German as a foreign language in a small language school in Göttingen.

In your blog (Du bist dran!) you frequently write about more obscure games, for example from South America or the Far East. Where does your fascination with lesser-known games hail from?

I traveled a lot in my past, especially in Asia. In 2000 I went to Taiwan for approximately two years. I couldn’t really find a gaming scene, but one of my students once told me he had a few German games at home. Nevertheless it didn’t come to a point where we met up.

Then I brought some things myself and played Settlers here and there, or some Tichu. This was usually with other people from foreign countries though, and Taiwanese only sporadically took part in it. In 2012 I returned for a visit again, and discovered an active scene had developed. That’s when I met up with a few game authors and formed some first friendships, played prototypes, and so on.

Since Taiwan was very dear to my heart due to my personal history, I always paid attention to see what came from there. Also in 2012, Seiji Kanai put an envelope in my hand that had 16 cards inside. This was of course Love Letter.

I was delighted by the graphics and wanted more of it (I never warmed up to the AEG-edition, we still play the original – although it is probably the third copy of it at this point). In many European games I’m just a bit bored by the illustrations, even though there are of course beautifully crafted pictures here as well.

This is how my passion for Asian games was kindled. And when I wanted to start my blog two years ago, I looked for a niche, since I thought, that nobody really wants hear me, of all people, give the umpteenth review for some hit game.

So I concentrated on Asian games and other lesser-known things.

Latin America was only added last year by pure coincidence. I heard of a publisher in Sao Paulo and then looked at their BGG entry. Besides many licensed editions there were also a few games there that originally hailed from Brazil. Then I looked for someone who could teach me about them.

From that came some really nice contact with the authors, and then I just did that again with Argentina. I also realized more and more how international and colorful the gaming world is. I thought it was great! In all countries there’s play. More in some, less in others – but games exist everywhere.

Here in Germany, we don’t notice a lot of that. This doesn’t just apply to the players here (who understandably rely on the local supply) but also to the publishers. Japanese games are on everyone’s lips by now, and the Taiwanese games were also noticed a lot more this year, but what about Colombia? Indonesia? Nigeria?

There’s so much untapped potential.

Essen is often the only way for players to get these lesser-known games. Do you have other sources for unknown games, and which game was your favorite in Essen 2017?

The conventions in Essen and (to a smaller degree) Nürnberg are indeed the most important sources for me. It’s true that those are the locations where people from all over the world meet up, and when I see something that’s truly exciting, which would otherwise be too expensive due to postage costs, then I find someone who can bring it along. I myself also send quite a bit of stuff from here out to the world.

Naturally I also want to give back. Aside from the conventions I very rarely buy games. I’m fairly well supplied with the stuff I got in Essen… for a few more months.

Of course, you can get nearly everything through the internet, when you’re willing to pay the corresponding price (although specifically in Japan you sometimes also have the language barrier as a factor).

I find what NiceGameShop does to be great, from there you can get some exotic games, even though you’re not in contact with the creators themselves. But for me personally it’s not really always about buying or owning the games themselves (or even just playing them – not everything I write about necessarily has to be interesting to me myself).

I first and foremost want to show how international and diverse our hobby is.

You also translate games for various publishers. From which languages do you translate, and into which languages? 

Usually I translate from English, as that’s the only foreign language I’m proficient enough in. However, together with my wife (who comes from Taiwan) I’ve also translated some things from Chinese – but I couldn’t do that alone.

I can’t speak Spanish whatsoever, but I can somewhat understand game rules by now (if they’re illustrated halfway sensibly). So I’ve also done some ad-hoc translations there, but not really good enough to be published. Portuguese is harder, but I let myself be helped when I’m on unclear passages.

When you know many games, understanding others gets easier, even when they arrive in more exotic languages.

In addition to blogging and translating you also develop your own games. Can you talk some more about your own games? 

I had the fantastic fortune to get to know Reinhold Wittig, who has become a friend and mentor to me. I learned a great, great deal from him, even though we often have completely different trains of thought. But maybe it is exactly for this reason that we’ve published three games in the meantime.

Reinhold’s ideas often come from objects that he sees or touches, and which he plays around with. He sees a lot more in many things than other people.

For me, it’s more the mechanisms that come to mind, with which I experiment afterwards. So our talents often fit together nicely.

And of course I’m influenced by the games I like to play myself when developing: card games, dexterity games, short and crisp games. Sometimes I try some stuff that wouldn’t necessarily pull me in as a player myself… just because.

Your Mission Impractical looks very interesting. How did you get the idea for the game?

Thanks. I woke up one morning and an idea came to mind. As I woke up more, I realized that a game like that existed already and I scrapped the idea. And then I suddenly Mission Impractical popped up. Then I made a first prototype from paper and tried it out directly on the next day and it was a resounding success.

At that point I knew that I was onto something. And indeed, I’ve never had such good reactions to a game. I myself still gladly play it after more than 100 games. I was also very happy, since first of all, I always wanted to make a game fit for laughter, and second, since I wanted to develop something that is actually usable for German classes.

That worked well with Mission Impractical.

What would be your advice for those that want to get a foot in the door of the boardgaming world as an author?

Two things.

First: To warm up, just start and don’t look at the potential for publishing too much. Only one of several good ideas comes through anyway. You can learn something from failed projects as well.

And please don’t be scared to try things, even in front of an audience.

Second: Build a network. Get to know people, get involved with strangers, talk to many people about your own ideas (and the ones of others!)  and try them out. A part of this works over the internet, but the face-to-face contact is still absolutely necessary, I find.

You can drive to one of the bigger authors meetings, like for example the one in Göttingen. That’s a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people and exchange views (testing with other authors can be way more fruitful than just with people who only look at the game from a player’s perspective). Or you go to one of the ‘normal’ gaming events and just present yourself.

What’s next for the blog and game development? Do you have any new projects planned?

Always. Before Christmas, there are a few more reviews coming to stuff that I brought from Essen. I’m guessing Geek Out! Masters, Samurai Dori and Der Baum, but that always depends on my current mood and inspiration. Maybe I’ll write a few things about the book Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga that I’m currently reading. And in January there’s the deadline for the King Alfonso award [Note: Premio Alfonso X] in Argentina. I’m looking forward to that.

I don’t have any really hot prototypes right now. There are some half-baked ideas that I should work out at some point given the opportunity, but nothing that’s tangible enough that I could say a lot about it already.

It’s simply not my way to sit down with the objective: “I will now invent a game.” The first part of being inspired nearly always comes suddenly. And then it depends on whether or not you catch fire and do something with it…

Scouting for games at Göttinger Spieleautorentreffen

Ah yes, Göttingen.

When I think of Göttingen, I think of the many bicycles at the train station, the beautiful medieval cobblestone streets, my friends who lived there, and a meticulously crafted ‘hobo on a train’ simulation.

Wait – what?

Each year board game authors and publishers meet in the lovely German town of Göttingen to test board games prototypes. The Göttinger Spieleautorentreffen was initiated by Reinhold and Karin Wittig in 1983, and is the oldest and biggest game author’s fair in Germany.

I recently returned to Göttingen in the quest to find new exciting games to publish. We have been doing this scouting work for many years for our partners at Korea Boardgames, but since founding Sweet Lemon back in 2016 we are naturally also looking  for tabletop gold which doesn’t quite fit traditional publishing.™

When scouting new games for a publisher, there are always guidelines and restrictions based on the company’s market and the style of games that bring them success. Generally, if a publisher passes on a game, that doesn’t mean they didn’t like the game. It just isn’t a good fit with their company at the moment.

For example, Korea Boardgames is the biggest distributor for board games in Asia and has published its own games for many years.

While KBG distributes a wide array of different styles of games for families as well as hardcore gamers, when it comes to publishing they’re looking for family games which can be played in under an hour and are fun for children (age 8+) and adults alike. There are many authors presenting games of that segment in Göttingen, so naturally it is an important event for us and we visit every year.

Four years ago, I visited for the first time and back then my colleague Simon wrote an article about the experience scouting for games:

This kind of work will always be taxing. Sometimes it is hard to judge games: Maybe it is fun but… is it -original? -marketable? -fitting your company lineup? Maybe it is not a lot of fun but you can see it could be?

 

Sometimes it is hard to communicate one’s (negative?) opinion to an enthusiastic author. Maybe you feel that the author is missing some elementary flaw in his game: Should you try to help out?

This still is true and will always be true. There are people who put blood, sweat and tears into a project and as a scout you only have the chance to snatch a glimpse of that before moving to the next table, always looking for the perfect fit for your company.  For example, we found a cute dexterity game with launchers and cups several years ago in Göttingen which later became our very successful Coconuts.

Each year we see a lot of promising games that get published some time down the road and this year was no exception. From the quirky designs of Florian Racky to the fun city building games of Filip Miłuński, I played several very cool prototypes and look forward to their proper publication.

Even if it often does not seem like it when testing: I enjoy playing board games 🙂

Last year, around 220 authors presented their games to scouts from 40 different publishing companies. Last weekend, the fair got even bigger and I can imagine it will be even bigger next year – because tabletop games are up and coming.

If you’re an aspiring game author or a publisher in or around Germany, it’s a fair you can not miss. The first day is for authors and publishers, while the second day is also open to the public (although limited to four hours).

What’s the most creative prototype you’ve ever seen? Comment below with your ‘hobo on a train’ simulation!

What I learned scouting unpublished games

As a newcomer to the tabletop industry, I jumped at the chance to scout for unpublished games at Munich’s Internationale Spieleerfinder-Messe.

As an Australian whose “Deutsche ist nicht sehr gut, entschuldigung,” I was nervous.

Luckily, the community welcomed me across the language barrier with open arms. Dozens of authors were kind enough to walk me through their projects, which stretched the gamut from kinderspiele to hardcore gamer’s games.

As a scout, you’re faced with tons of cardboard and little plastic things and dice by the truckload, and somehow you need to figure out which game is the most interesting.

Here’s the catch: they’re all interesting, because you love board games. Such a crazy situation, right?

But this is daily life for every gamer on the planet. There’s plenty of stuff and it all looks awesome. For that reason, thinking about the humble scout is a good way to think about your market.

These tips are intended for new designers, so we’ll start with something very concrete.

Your game may not need dice

I get it.

Board games and dice are pretty much synonymous (just look at the last two images I’ve used). Dice are a kind of conceptual shorthand. How else do you know when a player’s turn has started? Plus they’re fun to roll! But your game may not need dice.

Your game may not need a lot of things.

Cards, miniatures, variable powers, all the beautiful tools and ideas that tabletop gaming has fostered – each should be carefully scrutinized before letting them into your game.

It’s not about throwing out the rule book, vainly attempting to reinvent the wheel. Get new rule books! Play everything you can, keep stretching those horizons, and you may find your game fits elsewhere in the tabletop universe.

Like, what are you trying to do with this game? Really?

Do that thing. Just do it.

Less is more (unique)

Remember those hundreds of other titles? Your game needs a hook, friend.

One common trap for new designers is to keep adding more features, searching for that point of difference in sheer quantity. This is a common intuition across the arts – look at all this interesting stuff!

In fact, the opposite is often true. By narrowing the focus and throwing out the baggage until nothing but your game remains, you’ll have something more distinctive.

With this approach, it’s possible to not only find that hook, but also sharpen it to a fine point.

Think of it like a Venn Diagram. As the circle of your game expands, the greater likelihood it overlaps the same terrain (solving the same design problems) as other games.

And what if you’re designing a glorious big box game drenched in small details? That’s fantastic – go for it! Just keep that precious, original idea at the beating heart.

You’re onto something

Absolutely every game I saw in Munich had a great idea at its core.

And that idea is rarely a mechanic. It’s often a feeling, a relationship between players, an affection for certain aesthetics – the cardboard and rules are just vehicles. So do you really need those hidden roles, that event deck? And if it’s a distraction, why do you keep reaching for it?

Maybe the ‘twist’ should become your main idea, and it’s time to change everything. This is fine as well.

As a designer, you might spend weeks, months or (sometimes) years getting it just right. You obviously have a lot of faith in the central idea, or you wouldn’t have invested so much time and effort.

So, when it’s time to show your prototype to others, let that idea shine. Make your goals explicit. Help people understand what you want to do.

Because you’re onto something great – you know it.

Life is a point salad

People find joy in a lot of different ways, and we’re not all pursuing the same things.

Some designers want fame and fortune. Some publishers want to painstakingly hand-craft every wooden piece in their own garage. It’s all good.

So what do you want from game design? Think about that. Write it down if possible. Now think about your dream publisher. What do they want?

These goals should at least be compatible – ideally, they’ll be in harmony, each supporting the other. If they aren’t, you may need to reconsider your ideal publisher. That wasn’t your dream after all!

From this point of view, the sting of ‘rejection’ can seem very different.

When a publisher decides this isn’t the game for them, they’re not deciding it’s a bad game. Often it’s simply heading in a different direction, and doesn’t match their own hopes and dreams.

This can feel like a failure, but in reality you’ve dodged a bullet.

Have you ever gone on a bad date? Now imagine that lasting for months and months…

The tide is rising (so pick a ship)

It can be tempting in these situations to feel defensive, to imagine you’re in competition with other creators. But the tide of tabletop gaming is rising, lifting everyone across the industry, and their success is also your success.

And the truth is you’re not competing for some all-powerful gatekeeper to publish your game or condemn it to obscurity.

That kind of gatekeeper is dead.

With the advent of crowdfunding, smaller publishers are more like partners or consultants on the project of your game, with particular areas of expertise and equally particular restraints.

It’s fine to aim your game towards a large company, but there are alternatives! If you make that decision, it’s time to start thinking like a small publisher. What do they want? What are they thinking about?

Spoiler: it’s Kickstarter. Here is a great resource to get you started.

If you have a game you’d like Sweet Lemon Publishing or Korea Boardgames to check out, just send the print & play files via email.

See you in Munich next year!

Impressions from FeenCon in Bonn

Good chance that you saw at least one of those last weekend at the “FeenCon” in Bonn, Germany! And it was a good opportunity to meet some authors of fantasy books in person. The main bulk of visitors were obviously from German speaking countries, as most of the authors there published their books in German. To name just a few of them: Janina Robben, Hannah Böving, Lisa Dröttbom and Dirk Richter.

Also interesting were the works of various artists who were at the FeenCon. From Manga Art to medieval style and may drawings…for children and “old children”, everyone could find interesting stuff. Personally, I liked the project Lars Czekalla was presenting: A short movie about a child who tells her father “to grow up”, as he is playing fantasy role playing games with his friends all the time.

The weather was quite hot at the weekend – maybe this prevented the FeenCon from having far more visitors. On the other hand, this created a very relaxed atmosphere, as one could stroll freely through the location. Big thumbs up to the main organizer Tore Herr, who made the FeenCon 2016 come true!

Game Designer Convention in Göttingen

No question – Korea Board Games sent out scouts to find promising prototypes of new board and card games! And they were quite excited – what surprises would this convention bring?

The city hall of the medieval German city of Göttingen was the place where Game designers from all over Europe came together to show the prototypes of their new games.

The scouts were amazed to see so many creative minds at one place. The prototypes themselves?

Certainly not all of them matched the expectations we have for a great board/card game. But a few were really “WOW”. So now is the time to playtest some of the most promising prototypes – and let´s see whether the best will make it into a new game at Korea Board Games.

Essen 2014

Hey everybody!

20141019_091032

2 weeks ago was the first day of Spiel fair 2014 in Essen, Germany.

And what a successful first day it was. We almost sold out in 4 of our 5 novelties and they were sold out at the end of the fair. Many people wanted to play a game of Abraca..What? and King’s Pouch and the tables were always full with people coming together and playing our games. It was a exciting time.

Each year, many games get released in these mad days in Essen. Each year there is a lot of excitement in the fair halls when the games for which you read everything you could gather and got excited for a long time finally gets avaiable for everybody. We had a lot of such encounters and met many great people who wanted to play our games.

20141018_110606

Because this is really what Essen is about: meeting people. Meeting partners for possible distribution in other countries, meeting shop owners, board game artists and journalists, meeting board game designers and getting to know their interesting new designs and last but not least meeting fans who want to play our games. You all are the reasons why we love to make games.

20141016_133938

Playing King’s Pouch with the designer Keewong Kim.

20141017_110715

Marie Cardouat signing a copy of Abraca…what?

20141019_120406

And the designer Gary Kim did so, too! 🙂

We had a very fun time this year in Essen and hope to see all of you again next year!

Göttingen Boardgame Authors’ Fair

We’ll take a break from the KBG Design Contest News this time and tell you about another way to interact with authors. A fair!

Göttingen is the name of a town in northern Germany. For more than 30 years it has also been the location of a boardgame authors’ fair. Many of the big german publishers, like Amigo, Ravensburger, Kosmos, etc. are sending scouts to authors’ meetings like this and “Göttingen” is one of the oldest and most famous of them. The latest fair took place this past weekend (14th and 15th of June).

In the last few years KBG has also joined the meeting and we would like to tell you a little bit about our experiences…

For us as scouts, the fair in Göttingen always provides very mixed experiences and it was not different in this year.

This kind of work will always be taxing. Sometimes it is hard to judge games: Maybe it is fun but… is it -original? -marketable? -fitting your company lineup? Maybe it is not a lot of fun but you can see it could be?

Sometimes it is hard to communicate one’s (negative?) opinion to an enthusiastic author. Maybe you feel that the author is missing some elementary flaw in his game: Should you try to help out? The more experienced a boardgame editor you are, the more certain you can be about your own opinion. But we at KBG aren’t really industry veterans… boardgames haven’t even been sold in Korea for more than around 10-15 years! 🙂

Even if you are a veteran editor… you played this game only one time, while the author has worked on it for months or years! OK, maybe you are sitting in front of a rethemed version of “chutes and ladders”… but it is probably still better to hold back and respect the time and effort the guy on the other side of the table has put in. And anyways you don’t have time for any “small talk” because there are 199 other tables to go to!

Going through all those tables while keeping an open mind and listening to every explanation attentively all the time is nigh impossible, so in addition to all other problems, one has to be aware of these limitations and try to work around them.

All the “stress” of trying to do your job aside, there are also a lot of positives: you can find all kinds of different people at the tables there, ranging from experienced authors to total newcomers and from game agencies to authors’ collectives. Most of the people -even those who participate the first time- usually are well-prepared and know what helps the scouts to do their jobs (summary sheets for games, name cards with contact info, etc.). Everyone is generally friendly and the atmosphere is quite relaxed.

And of course it is great fun to see what sometimes incredibly complicated, sometimes stupidly funny, sometimes genuinely surpising and novel ideas all those people are showing. So we will definitely be there again in 2015.